Waves of Relief

2 minute read
Alex Perry

It is an irony not lost on the people of Arugam Bay that the waters from which they make their livelihood came so close to ruining them. With its 2-m waves, this 3-km stretch of beach on Sri Lanka’s east coast is considered one of the world’s top 10 surfing destinations and is home to the annual British pro surfing championships. Over the past decade, a small industry of hotels and restaurants grew up around the board riders.

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At 9:04 a.m. on Dec. 26, however, Arugam Bay took the full force of the tsunami. Around 350 people died, many of them tourists sleeping off an all-night Christmas full-moon party. Thus, in a few minutes, the sea destroyed the very world that it had built. But surfers are a resilient lot. Before the tsunami, many braved Sri Lanka’s civil war and Arugam Bay’s previous lack of power or telephones to ride its magnificent waves. So even though the area is still recovering, with some buildings little more than piles of rubble, the surfers are back, many helping (both physically and financially) to rebuild homes and the hotels and restaurants they knew so well. The Brits even returned for their summer championships. Naturally, the die-hard surfers among you will need no encouraging to visit (or revisit) Arugam Bay, but beginners should take note: this will be one time you’ll find the notoriously clannish world of surfing ready to welcome strangers with open arms.

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